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Encounters with GodThe Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the COLOSSIANS and PHILEMON
By Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby
Thomas Nelson, Inc.Copyright © 2008 Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLesson #1
EFFECTIVE PRAYER FOR OTHERS
Prayer: petitioning God
B Bible Focus
[We] do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians1:9–14).
Have you ever struggled in knowing how precisely to pray for another person, and especially how to pray for a person you may not know well? The apostle Paul gives us an outline! The prayer that he offered for the Colossians, a group of people whom he had never met but had only heard about through his colleagues Epaphras and Timothy, gives us a model for those things that we can pray with full assurance that we are praying God's will for another person. Note the six specifics of this prayer:
Filled with the knowledge of God's will—with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. The apostle Paul does not say that the Colossians are already filled with this knowledge, but he does pray that they will be filled. He desires that they will know fully God's plan and purposes for their lives, not only the broad plan of obedience to God's commandments, but the specific daily plans and purposes that are revealed in an ongoing way by the Holy Spirit. He desires that they understand spiritual truth and know how to apply spiritual principles. He desires that they have an eternal perspective for all they do and say.
Walking worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him. Those who walk "worthy of the Lord" are those who obey the Lord and seek to please Him in all of their actions and relationships.
Being fruitful in every good work. To be "fruitful" means to be productive in ways that benefit or bless others. A "good work" is one that furthers God's kingdom.
Increasing in the knowledge of God. We increase in our knowledge of God by what we read and study in God's Word, and also by what we gain as we develop a personal relationship with God through prayer and daily relating to Him.
Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy. It is the Holy Spirit who strengthens us to endure all situations that we encounter in life, and to do so with an inner wellspring of joy that is unrelated to outer circumstances.
Giving thanks to the Father. Our thanksgiving is to flow from a sharp awareness of God's saving and delivering power—a clear understanding that we have been grasped from the clutches of the evil one, redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus, forgiven of our sins, and are now partakers of all the inheritance due the saints of God.
What a wonderful prayer this is to ask for others, including every member of your family every day! What a wonderful prayer to lift up for yourself!
Nothing about this prayer is contrary in the least to God's highest desires for a human being. God wants His beloved children to know His commands and purposes, to obey Him, to enjoy a fruitful life, to know Him better day by day, to be strong and joyful, and to be overflowing with gratitude for their salvation. It is as we live out the fullness of this prayer that we are in prime position to receive all of God's blessings.
Is there a particular phrase in this prayer that seems to stand out to you in a special way? Pray that especially for yourself and those you love ... right now.
A Application for Today
"Pray for me," the woman said to her Sunday school teacher after class one Sunday.
"What shall I pray for?" the teacher asked, noting the tears welling up in the woman's eyes.
"Just pray for ME," the woman said. "I'm a mess. Everything in my life is a mess."
The teacher felt a moment of panic and dismay. She didn't want to offend the woman standing before her by assuming that she had committed a terrible sin or that she was facing a life-threatening or life-changing situation. She truly wanted to pray in a way that would be both comforting and helpful. She quickly and silently prayed, "God, help me to pray in the right way. Give me the words to say."
The teacher then put her hands on the shoulders of the woman standing before her and prayed very slowly and with great intention, "May God's love and joy fill every crevice of your spirit, heart, mind, and body. May you know without any shadow of doubt that God is for you, not against you. May you come to understand His plans and purposes for you. May you grow in your relationship with God and become increasingly fruitful and strong. May you have thousands upon thousands of reasons to give God thanks and praise. I ask this in Jesus' name, Amen."
The woman gave her Sunday school teacher a big hug and said "thank you" and walked away. Several weeks later she came again to her teacher and said, "When you prayed for me I saw a picture in my mind. God was holding a big pitcher over my head and He began pouring love and joy into my life. It was slowly seeping down into every area of my heart that seemed to be cracked and dry—like a wonderful healing lotion. Every morning over the past few weeks I have awakened with a thought in my mind, 'thank God for His pouring love and joy into me.' I have been thanking God for His presence in my life every morning, and the more I have thanked Him, the more I have felt His presence with me all day long."
That morning, the Sunday school teacher prayed for HERSELF what she had prayed for her student. What an amazing thing to experience a "pouring in" of God's love and joy!
Do you need more of God's love and joy in your life today? Ask Him to pour Himself into your life in a way that is overflowing, healing, and comforting. Thank Him in an ongoing way for doing so!
S Supplementary Scriptures to Consider
The apostle Paul's prayer for the Colossians was based upon a solid understanding of their faith in Christ Jesus:
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit (Colossians 1:3–8).
How do your prayers for fellow believers in Christ Jesus differ from prayers that you might pray for those who do not yet know Jesus as their personal Savior?
Is there a difference in the way you pray for fellow Christians who are earnestly following Jesus as their Lord, and those who seem to have only a nominal relationship with Jesus Christ?
The apostle Paul prayed this for the believers in Ephesus:
Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen (Ephesians 6:23–24).
What does it mean to extend "peace" to a fellow believer? (Note that the word "peace," shalom in the Hebrew, refers to wholeness in spirit, soul, and body. Shalom is a concept directly related to both salvation and healing.)
What does it mean to extend "love with faith" to a fellow believer?
What does it mean to you to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity? How might this type of love be related to grace, which is the working of God in a person's life?
The apostle Paul prayed this for Philemon:
I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother (Philemon 4–7).
Paul seems to give a basic definition for a Christian's "witness"—the sharing of a person's faith. He prays that Philemon's witness might become effective as Philemon acknowledges every good thing in his life that Christ Jesus has done or produced. What today would you note as the "good things" that Christ Jesus has done in or through your life?
What does it mean for a person to "refresh" the hearts of fellow believers? How do we do this? In what ways might we do this better?
I Introspection and Implications
1. How do you want others to pray for you?
2. To what extent are you willing to ask others to pray for you? To what extent are you willing to be vulnerable in expressing your weaknesses, flaws, failures, needs, or sins to another person?
3. Are you comfortable or uneasy when others note your good deeds or character traits as part of their prayers for you?
4. Do you ever feel challenged to "live up to" or to "manifest" to a greater extent what others have prayed for you?
5. Do you feel free to pray for others? What holds you back? In what ways do you feel limited in your ability to pray effectively for other people? What might you do to grow in your willingness or ability to pray for others?
C Communicating the Good News
How might prayer along the lines of Colossians 1:9–14 become a part of your church as you seek to reach out to others in your community who do not know Jesus as their Savior?
Does this prayer offer an outline for the way WE need to live as Christians who seek to give witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ?
To what extent do we need to have greater knowledge—wisdom and spiritual understanding—about how to win the lost?
In what ways do we need to be increasingly aware of our need to obey God as part of our Christian witness?
In what ways do we need to grow in our knowledge of God in order to become better soul winners?
In what ways do we need greater strength, patience, and joy as we witness to others?
Perhaps one of the most powerful witnesses we can make for Christ is to pour out our thanksgiving to God in appropriate verbal ways—to regularly express our reliance upon God and gratefulness for His work in our lives. In what ways might you incorporate more expressions of thanksgiving into your daily conversations?
Chapter TwoLesson #2
THE SUPREMACY OF CHRIST JESUS
Supremacy: a position of superiority or authority over all others
B Bible Focus
He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:15–20).
In this passage of Colossians, the apostle Paul was addressing the major heresy of his day: Gnosticism. While Gnosticism was rampant in the last half of the first century in the Greco-Roman world, the sad truth is that Gnosticism is still a major heresy in our world today.
We are so accustomed to living in a world that acknowledges the existence of one supreme God that we find it almost impossible to relate to the idea that at the time of the early church, most of the world believed in many gods. Every major culture had its own pantheon of gods and goddesses, some of them more powerful than others. The concept of one God, creator of all, was a decidedly Jewish concept, and through the Jews, a foundation stone of Christianity.
In the above passage, the apostle Paul affirmed the existence of God, creator and ruler of all things—both invisible and visible.
Most of the world at the time of Paul also believed that the suprametaphysical realm of the "spiritual" was separated from humanity and the physical world. The role of man was to serve as a butler to the gods—bringing them offerings of food and wine, and building them great temples in which to live. They believed that, if the gods accepted the service rendered to them, they might condescend to give man favorable crops, children, and business success.
In the above verses, the apostle Paul clearly contended that Jesus is both God and man—present at creation and also the supreme creation as God incarnate in human flesh. For most of the people who heard the gospel in the first century, this concept was earth-shattering and, at the same time, gloriously hope-filled.
A segment of the Greco-Roman society called Gnostics—literally "the intellectual ones"—further contended that God was spirit and good, but that all matter was evil and in opposition to God. They believed that a totally good God could not create matter directly, nor could God touch matter. They regarded the physical world as the result of a long series of emanations that God set into motion, until the final emanation was so distant from God that matter could be formed. To claim that Jesus—a human being living in a material, physical body—was divine, was unthinkable to the Gnostics. The Gnostics further believed that the way for a human being to have communication or reconciliation with God was to work his way intellectually back through the established series of emanations—each one having its own secret password and required level of knowledge. "Salvation" to them was an intellectual exercise that had nothing to do with the body—and certainly nothing to do with the body of Jesus Christ or His shed blood.
In the passage above, the apostle Paul clearly states that salvation is a matter of believing in the power of the shed blood of Jesus.
How, you may ask, is Gnosticism at work in our world today?
Countless people in the world today continue to believe in multiple gods and goddesses. This is not just limited to Hinduism and other eastern religions, which are increasing rather than decreasing in popularity in North America and European nations. Millions of people in the western world also believe in themselves as being gods and goddesses, or trust in human agencies and institutions to be god in their lives.
Countless people in our world today do not see any relationship between the spiritual world encountered on Sundays and the material or physical world which they face Monday through Saturday. They see God as distant and detached—a divine figurehead to be "served" through good works. They hope that their good works will satisfy a harsh and judgmental God, and be sufficient to earn them some degree of favor.
Countless people in our world today believe that, if they merely "think" enough good thoughts, they can know God. Others believe that only the "super spiritual" can ever truly know God personally.
Countless people in our world today believe that many other religions are equal to Christianity and that Jesus is not "supreme"—they believe that Jesus is not in a position of superiority or authority over all other "gods" or "religions."
How do you speak to those who might hold these opinions?
In what ways do you personally battle the pervasive perspective that man can earn his own salvation through good works and right attitudes—apart from the shed blood of Jesus?
A Application for Today
"I like Jesus," a man said to his seatmate on an airline flight. "He was a good man. He taught some good things."
"But do you believe that He was God?" his seatmate asked.
"God? How could He be God? He was a man—a good man, but just a man."
"What do you do with the fact that Jesus spoke of Himself as being one with God—He was God incarnate, or God wrapped up in human flesh?"
The man shook his head and sighed. "I don't know what to do with that. Maybe I need to study spiritual things more."
"It isn't a matter of study. It is a matter of believing. The truth is—nobody can fully understand with his mind how Jesus could be God incarnate or be equal with God the creator as a member of the Trinity. There are some things that God requires for us simply to believe—to accept for no other reason than that He said so. In many ways, believing comes first, then understanding. That's opposite the way most people approach life—they must understand in order to believe. God's way is opposite. Believe ... and then understand."
Excerpted from Encounters with God by Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby Copyright © 2008 by Henry Blackaby Richard Blackaby Thomas Blackaby Melvin Blackaby Norman Blackaby. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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